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This fall marks a year since the formation of Chicago Booth’s Part-Time Allyship committee. We chat with student Edward Acosta and alumna Tina Djenge about the committee’s inception, activities, and goals for the future.

Edward Acosta, Evening MBA student, Professional Development Chair of Booth’s Allyship Committee, Product Manager MBA Intern at Amazon Web Services.

Tina Djenge, Chicago Booth alumna and former professional chair of Graduate Women in Business, Founder of Neural Trend, a data-science company that helps fashion and beauty retailers predict apparel demand so they can promote and source the right merchandise.

Tina, how did the idea of forming an allyship committee come about?

Tina: When I joined Booth I was particularly excited to join Graduate Women in Business (GWB). As I learned more about it, I wondered why we have an organization that is set up to empower women but is not pulling men into the conversation, which is a critical piece of leadership equity. At the time, my male peers were also telling me how they, too, can be a part of the change, but weren’t sure which GWB events they were welcome to or how to really do it effectively.

Even before becoming a co-chair of GWB, I spoke with the existing board about these joint conversations, and so this became my biggest goal during my time on the board. I started exploring the idea of what allyship should look like for us and how we could invite men to take action in overcoming challenges women face at work. My intention was to create a set of actionable toolkits on how to drive change in this journey of gender equity. The conversation would also be structured around empowering women to advocate for themselves, and guiding men to provide help in a way that’s effective and meaningful. Forte Foundation has been tremendously supportive in shaping this committee, allowing us to leverage their MBA allyship best practices toolkit. Another organization in Chicago, called Network of Executive Women (NEW), led by Sarah Alter, has been very valuable as well. During my time at Booth, I also started a data-science company, Neural Trend, and my team and I used the frameworks learned to apply it towards building an equitable culture.

Tell us about the committee’s formation and structure

Tina: In setting up the allyship committee, we wanted to find advocates who have taken action to support their female peers. Women could nominate men or men could self-nominate and explain why they would be a good fit and provide examples of how they exhibited this quality in the past. We had an amazing group of candidates who were very excited about this topic and wanted to take it forward and bring the rest of Chicago Booth on board. Edward was actually a self-nominee and he has been a champion of the committee ever since.

Our committee has three chairs and one or two ambassadors under each chair. Edward is our Professional Development Chair. He pulls industry professionals into the conversation to leverage what they've learned throughout their careers. This allows Booth students to understand that 1) to be a great leader and an executive, you need to be inclusive, and 2) they get to learn insights on how great leaders have done it in the past. Our Community Engagement chair Adam Crumpler, helps pull the Booth community into the conversation, and our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair Kevin Hong, ensures we're having inclusive conversations across the board. We also want to recognize Boothie allies Abraham Zelee, Christian Compton, and Sean Baur, who have made significant contributions to the progress we’ve accomplished to date, and the former GWB board - Sindhuja Pamulapati, Christine Koval, Julia Jain and Katie Pincus for supporting on their front.

TIna Djenge

"I started exploring the idea of what allyship should look like for us and how we could invite men to take action in overcoming challenges women face at work. My intention was to create a set of actionable toolkits on how to drive change in this journey of gender equity."

— Tina Djenge

Edward, what was the draw for you of getting involved in allyship?

Edward: I wasn’t initially sure if I saw myself in this role, but I’m aware of the disparity in salary and representation of women at the higher executive level. If women represent half of the population, why do they represent such a small percentage of the upper echelons of corporations? Why should they be paid less? I grew up surrounded by strong female leaders. Thirty years ago, my grandmother ran a hardware store in the Dominican Republic. I can’t even imagine the hardships she had to deal with over the years. Another example is my mother,  who has become the general manager of a company which grew into a multi-million dollar company under her leadership. My sister is also an MBA graduate and is probably facing the same challenges that my female peers at Booth are facing. So for me, this is a very personal matter. I didn’t know if I could be a good champion, but I felt that something had to be done.


What Allyship events have taken place at Chicago Booth this past year?

Edward: We work to educate folks on techniques to empower women, using tools provided by NEW. We have also brought in leaders from the community to speak with Boothies and talk about the benefits of empowering women. We had an event with Josh Hotsenpiller, a serial entrepreneur and currently the CEO of Juno, a digital platform for hosting virtual and digital events. Josh is also an advisor to NEW and a charismatic speaker. During Josh’s chat, he  discussed his professional journey and how he promotes the advancement of women. Another event was with Kate Eberle Walker, the author of The Good Boss: 9 Ways Every Manager Can Support Women at Work, Sam Yagan, Co-founder & CEO of Corazon Capital  and Christian Compton, a Male Ally who was so passionate about this event he worked on it even after graduation. As a group of men trying to inspire our fellow male Boothies, our goal with events like these is to showcase leaders who are setting the example on equity and inclusion, so that our future leaders have better role models to follow.

My goal as a man who is surrounded by strong, inspiring women, is to make these events very personal, highlighting how the current situation may be impacting the women in your life — your mom, wife, daughter, etc. I believe this has contributed to our events having some of the highest turnouts for GWB events.

Tina: It’s great to see a rising interest in the Booth community. For the event “How to Be a Good Boss”, we saw engagement from across programs - Chicago Booth’s Full-Time and Executive MBA programs, as well as alumni joined in. GWB has collaborated with Kellogg in the past, and they are now leaning on us to help create their program. We’ve realized that if we use allyship as something separate from the day-to-day of everybody's professional lives, we don't see as much engagement. Everyone wants to be a good boss and everyone is going to need to learn to lead other genders, and so the idea is to integrate allyship into the daily professional lives of the community.

What plans does the Allyship Committee have for the future?

Edward: We want to bring in more male Boothies who self-identify as allies and are willing to contribute to equity and inclusion. This growth will signal to the Chicago Booth community that we are ready to be seen as leaders who empower the women they work with. The more of us there are, the more we can start engaging with the larger UChicago community to increase awareness about this topic. My inspiration for this comes from an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

For more information on the allyship committee and to join the conversation, please contact Edward at EdwardAcosta@chicagobooth.edu

For more information on learning how to build a women-led organization, you can contact Tina at tina@neuraltrend.com

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